Friday, November 30, 2007

The Dark Knight: New Joker photo revealed!

Ok, so if you haven't already seen those promo pictures of Heath Ledger in full Joker gear...well, what the hell are you waiting for?! Damn, I never thought he could pull it off, but he certainly LOOKS the part. Now's a matter of seeing whether he can play psychotically insane...and whether he'll be able to speak in a high pitched whiny crazy-man voice WITHOUT his Aussie accent.

'Wizard' 2008 Movie Spectacular unveils a new photo of the Heath Ledger Joker and provides the first official set visit report!

Posted November 29, 2007 4:25 PM

While Wizard's 2008 Movie Spectacular may not touch down in comic stores till December 5 (and on newsstands Dec. 18), here's an early peek at the exclusive Heath Ledger Joker cover tied in to the 2008 blockbuster, “The Dark Knight.”

The issue features 13 pages of “The Dark Knight” coverage, including the first official set visit and a Christian Bale profile. The Wizard 2008 Movie Spectacular features info on over 150 movie projects, including “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Wanted,” “Star Trek,” “The Spirit,” “Transformers 2,” “Indiana Jones 4,” “Wolverine,” “Whiteout,” “Hellboy II,” “G.I. Joe,” “Teen Titans” and many more.

To order your issue of the Wizard 2008 Movie Spectacular, visit:

The Web Page: Nov. 28, 2007

Wow...Wizard have really been cranking out the articles and features of late! There were quite a lot of lean spells in November, but now it's approaching the end of the year, seems like there are HEAPS of things to report on!

Here's another installment of "The Web Page":

THE WEB PAGE: NOV. 28, 2007
Wizard Universe’s regular swing through ‘Spider-Man: One More Day’

By Sal Loria

Posted November 29, 2007 12:55 PM

EDITOR’S NOTE: The amazing Spider-Man is swinging into a whole new friendly neighborhood thanks to the back-to-back Spidey mega-events “One More Day” and “Brand New Day,” both of which are poised to change the wall-crawler’s world forever. So check the Web Page with each new issue for recaps, insight, analysis, Easter eggs and more web-slinging goodness!)



• Bitten by a radioactive spider while on a school field trip, nerdy Peter Parker gained the proportionate strength and abilities of a spider. Following the death of his Uncle Ben, Peter took on the alter-ego of Spider-Man in hopes of helping others, because with great power comes great responsibility.
• Life threw many curveballs at Peter, but he still found love with the beautiful Gwen Stacy—until a battle with the Green Goblin left her dead. Eventually, old wounds healed as he fell for, and eventually married, model/actress Mary Jane Watson. With his wife and his beloved Aunt May behind him and a membership in the New Avengers offering new support, things were looking up for Peter.
• Then the Stamford disaster, in which an out-of-control battle between heroes and villains left hundreds of civilians dead, turned the Marvel Universe upside-down. Wanting to put a stop to these “unsanctioned” heroes, the government and Tony Stark/Iron Man put instituted the Superhuman Registration Act, forcing all heroes to receive official sanction from the government. Spider-Man chose to back the act, and as a sign of good faith, he revealed his secret identity to the world.
• As a civil war among the heroes broke out, Peter began to rethink his stance, and realized just how much of a mistake he made by going public. Switching sides meant that Peter and his family were on the run—fugitives for making a stand against Iron Man and registration.
• While the Parkers were on the lam, a sniper hired by long-time Spider-Man adversary the Kingpin shot Aunt May. Spider-Man tracked down the man who gave the order and trounced the Kingpin while he was still in prison, vowing to return and to finish him should his Aunt May pass away. She remains in a coma, with extremely little chance for recovery…
• With rising hospital costs, Peter and MJ are aided by Jarvis, personal butler to Tony Stark and one-time romantic interest to Aunt May, as he covers all of the bills for May’s care. With the financial problem in order, Peter heads off in search of other alternatives in saving his aunt.
• Dr. Strange helps Peter split his consciousness into many parts, allowing him to ask the majority of the Marvel Universe’s power players to save his aunt—all of whom are unable. Attempting to stop the gunman by going back in time, all Peter manages to do is nearly get himself killed by the mystical Nightwalkers and relive the initial horror of his aunt getting shot all over again. Dejected, Peter leaves Strange’s sanctorum and comes across a mysterious little girl…


J. Michael Straczynski (W)/Joe Quesada (A)


• Peter talks to the little girl who seems to know everything about his current troubles, and agrees—reluctantly—to follow her. Rounding a corner, Peter encounters another stranger sitting on a park bench. The older gentleman starts explaining to Peter that if he had the power to be a real hero who could change the world and save lives, he’d be grateful and not ask for anything in return.
• At that moment, a Rolls Royce arrives and another, even older gentleman beckons Peter over, offering a lift to the person who can help Peter. This third stranger is obviously well off, but seems depressed over the fact that he has everything a person could possibly want, but he’d trade it all in for his true beloved. Down yet another street and Peter meets up with a woman who explains that the tiniest change in history can drastically alter what a person becomes.
• One possible course for Peter would be to become introverted and focus only on the things he can control, thereby losing sight of his own potential. Another option would be to constantly want to prove his worth and value regardless of how successful he may become, resulting in Peter becoming consumed.
• Fed up with the surreal surroundings, Peter lashes out, intent on carrying on with his quest to save his aunt’s life. It’s at this point that the woman shows her true identity—Mephisto. Peter quickly surmises that Mephisto wants his soul in exchange for Aunt May’s life, but that’s not the case at all. Simultaneously giving the offer to both Peter and Mary Jane, Mephisto promises that one of two things will happen at midnight the following day: either Aunt May dies, or Peter and MJ’s marriage will be wiped out completely!


Long thought buried under Marvel continuity, baby May Parker was swept under the proverbial rug never to be seen or mentioned again. Then again, a little girl who claims to be smart like her dad but wants to be beautiful like her mom is sure to raise a few eyebrows…


At least we now know that a powerless, alternate reality version of Peter Parker could still find fame shilling foot-longs, and much like Jared, Petey’s 15 minutes of fame would be unnecessarily stretched for an eternity.


We all saw what “No more mutants” did to the Marvel U’s resident homo superiors, but while there still are almost 200 mutants running around, there’s only one Spider-Man. Imagine no more web-spinning adventures, comical zingers and catchy theme songs. I


The only thing missing from this reveal is someone to announce Mephisto’s arrival. Understandably, Thor’s tied up with things since his return, but couldn’t Hercules be rounded up for this special occasion? He’s always in need for ale money after all…


Here it is, folks, the moment that Joe Quesada and JMS have been inching towards for six years. How will it end? Check out Amazing Spider-Man #545 for the answer!

Best moments of 2007

OoOOoO! Wizard Universe has just published a feature on the "Best Of" 2007! Super hot!

From a new ‘crisis’ situation to a wild wedding night, remember the strongest scenes that rocked the year!

By Ben Morse

Posted November 29, 2007 11:00 AM

THE REAL SINESTRO CORPS (Sinestro Corps Special)
Sinestro and thousands of like-minded sociopathic aliens wielding unstoppable power rings certainly seems like the Green Lantern Corps’ worst nightmare, but the last page of Sinestro Corps Special #1 revealed the situation to be far, far worse than originally believed. Joining Sinestro were:

• Kyle Rayner, once the last hope of the Green Lanterns, now possessed by Parallax, the ancient fear parasite that once held Hal Jordan in thrall.

• Cyborg Superman, the master of the robotic Manhunters and the entity who nearly brought the Man of Steel to intergalactic ruin.

• Superboy-Prime, a mentally unbalanced Kryptonian teen whose power nearly equals that of Superman himself.

• And the mutha of ’em all: the Anti-Monitor, the most powerful villain in the history of DC Comics, who ended untold lives and nearly wiped out the DCU in the classic Crisis on Infinite Earths. Unseen since his supposed death in that seminal tale over 20 years ago, he’s back and badder than ever as the lone “Guardian” of the Sinestro Corps.

After the incredibly violent, action-packed and visceral fireworks display of the Sinestro Corps Special, its awe-inspiring conclusion provided the final spectacular explosion that let everybody know that one of the year’s best comic stories had only just begun—and had plenty of surprises left.

Skrullektra! (New Avengers #3l)

The cover to New Avengers #31 made it clear Elektra would take a sai to the gut courtesy of Echo. However, we did not know that upon taking said tummy shot, Elektra would turn out to be a shape-shifting alien Skrull! The seeds of distrust among heroes were firmly planted.

Thor Hammers Iron Man (Thor #3)

Who better to deliver some long-awaited comeuppance to the morally questionable Tony Stark than the newly returned Thor, the man Stark cloned a killer from during Civil War? The Thunder God didn’t disappoint, tearing Shellhead’s armor to iron shreds and sending him on his merry way.

Sobek Chows Down (52 #43)

Over the course of 42 weeks, we fell in love with the heartwarming tale of Osiris and Sobek, where a superpowered teen found friendship with a quirky but endearing crocodile-man. Until said croc-man reveals he’s an assassin by eating the poor kid whole! Yum!

Warren Returns (Buffy Season Eight #2)

One of the single grossest moments of the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series came when Dark Willow skinned deranged chauvinist Warren after he killed her girlfriend Tara. Well, turns out death didn’t quite take for Warren as he resurfaced in comic book form, but sans skin! Yuck.

Nova Guts Annihilus (Annihilation #6)

Completing his transformation from B-list to badass, Nova ended Annihilus’ campaign for universal domination in grand—and disgusting—fashion by ripping out the insectoid conqueror’s insides for all to see, putting a permanent end to one of Marvel’s most powerful baddies.

Green Arrow and Black Canary (Green Arrow/Black Canary Wedding Special)

Instead of the wedded bliss they deserved, one of comics’ most venerable couples got a honeymoon of horrors as Black Canary’s utterance of “I love you” turned Green Arrow’s evil clone into a maniac intent on killing his bride. One arrow to the neck later, and the Canary became a widow.

Hulk Crushes Doctor Strange’s Hands (World War Hulk #3)

The Hulk proved his newest incarnation to be crafty as well as powerful, using his Bruce Banner alter ego to lull Doctor Strange into a false sense of security on the astral plane and taking the mystic’s hands into his own, only to crunch the good doctor’s fingers in a moment that made you cringe.

Sharon Shot Cap (Captain America #25)

The shocks of Captain America #25 didn’t end with the shot heard ’round the world, as the issue ended with Cap’s longtime love interest, Sharon Carter, looking in the mirror and realizing along with the reader that thanks to the mental manipulations of the Red Skull, she pulled the trigger!

Hawkeye Skewers the Widow (Ultimates 2 #13)

Black Widow’s betrayal hit all the Ultimates hard, but none harder than Hawkeye, her former partner on the team’s black ops squad who watched his family die at the hands of the Widow’s allies. Hawkeye brought the Black Widow’s web of deceit to an end with a point-blank arrow.

Batman Offered Sinestro Ring (Green Lantern #17)

It makes sense that Sinestro would want Batman in his Corps given the Dark Knight’s ability to inspire great fear, but Bats almost taking a walk on the dark yellow brick road, only to pull back at the last second, made an awesome appetizer for the war to come.

The Green Lantern Corps (Justice #12)

The Justice League of America and its allies have thwarted most of the Legion of Doom’s plans, but Brainiac still has the world’s nuclear missiles aimed at Earth. As zero hour looms, enter the entire Green Lantern Corps to save the day in a glorious two-page painted spread by Alex Ross.

Hercules Hammers Thor Clone (Civil War #7)

In a literally eye-popping moment, the Lion of Olympus punches the faux Thor so hard that the cyborg’s face falls off, avenging the murder of Goliath, redeeming some of the Thunder God’s honor and giving Hercules major street cred all in one fell swoop.

Wally West (Justice League of America #10)

From the moment he vanished during Infinite Crisis last year, fans clamored for the return of their favorite Flash, Wally West, and the conclusion of the “Lightning Saga” crossover between Justice League of America and Justice Society of America delivered, with the Fastest Man Alive back where he belongs.

Yorick Brown and Beth Deville (Y: The Last Man #55)

After five years and over 50 issues, the last man on Earth finally finds his lost love in the most romantic of locales: Paris. Series artist Pia Guerra creates the picture-perfect splash page for the long-awaited embrace that provided the year’s top tearjerker.

Bendis talks Skrulls, "Halo"

Well, with World War Hulk finished, Marvel Comics is gearing up towards the new Marvel event of 2008: Secret Invasion! I'm really excited about this, because I'd like to see who's been usurped as a Skrull and has been posing as a hero for a while now!

Here's an interview Wizard had with writer Brian Michael Bendis:

The writer discusses the lead-up to Secret Invasion and Halo: Uprising delays
By Brian Warmoth
Posted November 28, 2007 5:20 PM

Marvel brought writer Brian Michael Bendis to the phone live from Portland, Ore., today for the second in a series of Initiative-centered talks about the state of the Marvel Universe segueing into 2008’s event Secret Invasion. Senior Art Director Jeff Suter moderated the discussion, in which Bendis dropped clues about how Secret Invasion will kick off and apologized for the delay of his Halo: Uprising series with Alex Maleev.

“In my corner of the Marvel Universe, the Initiative is a big part of the story, but I’m already working on my comics for next year, in which the Initiative will be tested to its very core by this book I’m doing called Secret Invasion,” Bendis began. “The Initiative will need to succeed on every conceivable level if we get to keep the Earth.”

“If the Initiative becomes a cohesive unit, it certainly is the first time we’ll see anything like that in years in the Marvel Universe,” he added.

In the meantime, Bendis pointed to Luke Cage as a character whose life has been profoundly affected by the Initiative and registration. “Issue #38 of New Avengers is a very big issue where maybe even his marriage falls apart because of it,” he forecasted.

The writer teased that the fate of Tony Stark’s national Initiative program would succeed or fail based on the outcome of his Secret Invasion. “Not everyone who’s in the Initiative will survive the situation,” he promised, adding that his epic 2008 storyline in many ways has already begun. “Some of the Initiative may already have been infiltrated by shape-shifting alien Skrulls,” he stated.

As for how the Skrull invasion has already manifested in the pages of Marvel Comics, Bendis gave few details but offered some insight. “They already may have been doing massive amounts of damage that we’ll be aware of once it’s revealed who they are and what they’ve done,” the writer said.

Bendis also revealed that once Secret Invasion begins and characters are outed as Skrulls, backstories will accompany his present-day arcs. “I’m not going to leave stuff up to interpretation,” he guaranteed. “We’re going to let you guess up until, but when it’s time we’re going to turn all of the cards over and let you see everything.”

Suter asked Bendis to define the word “Skrully,” which the writer has popularized characterizing Marvel heroes who may be Skrulls. “If you’ve been dead and you’re alive again, if your ill-defined powers are being used in ways that seem like many different writers are writing them differently, mustaches—many things can give off a Skrulliness,” he suggested.

The Mighty and New Avengers scribe spent a few minutes on the hero who won Civil War, Tony Stark, explaining how he got to the precarious position as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. where he now finds himself.

“A few years ago, one of the topics was ‘What is the point of Iron Man? It’s Tony, and he’s got the armor, but what’s the point of the book?’” Bendis recalled, referring back to a Marvel retreat where storylines were hatched. “From there, seeds were sewn, and they started in Warren Ellis’ run, reinventing his powers for the modern day,” he told.

Bendis cited Stark as a difficult character to write, elaborating on his creative process as a writer. “You literally have to think of someone than yourself and write that,” he said. “I actually read a lot of books about futurists and inventors from their point of view and try to get into his mindset—not only [Tony], but Reed Richards.”

Ultimately, Bendis framed Secret Invasion as a possible undoing of the rupture Civil War created in the Marvel U. “If the Civil War was the divider of the Marvel Universe, the Skrull invasion certainly has the ability to be the uniter,” he hinted.

Additionally, Bendis took a minute to address the delays on his Halo series Halo: Uprising from Marvel, which is still experiencing delays. “The delays for Halo are not Marvel’s fault and not me and Alex [Maleev]’s,” the writer clarified. “The approval process with Bungie, though necessary, is very slow going, so we apologize for that. The series was supposed to be out before the game was out, but it just didn’t go that way.”

Thursday, November 29, 2007

America's next top artist

Yay! Wizard usually has this article annually, featuring their top six choices of artists who are ready to become the next superstars. And though I personally think at least THREE of them ARE already superstar artists, I suppose by "superstar artist", Wizard equates it to them working on big major titles like Avengers or X-Men or even Justice League.

Now pushing their pencils for high-profile gigs, six artists prove they’re ready for superstardom

By Jake Rossen

Posted November 28, 2007 12:00 PM


That’s the first thing that pops into Tony S. Daniel’s mind—at least, when he’s queried about his first illustrative subject. “My very first drawing was of a naked woman,” he laughs. “I remember drawing a stick figure-ish thing and drawing these gigantic boobs with this red crayon and just going over and over, making these huge circles. It looked kind of abstract, I guess.”

Mom didn’t like it, but Dad did (“he hung it on the refrigerator”). Public consensus seems to have sided with the latter, as the 37-year-old Daniel is getting raves for his work on DC’s flagship Batman title. The man who almost flunked kindergarten for being too “immature” (he tore up classmates’ Santa drawings when he deemed them mediocre) is now being hailed as a next-gen sensation with a flawless work ethic.

“He’s absolutely dedicated to every page he draws,” says Batman editor Mike Marts.

“His take is a nice mesh of classics like Jim Aparo and Neal Adams combined with modern versions like Jim Lee. And he’s extremely down to Earth.”

The words didn’t always flow as kindly for Daniel, who drew some critical reviews for his “cartoony” style during a 1990s tenure at Image that included work on Spawn and The Tenth. A self-imposed evolution on DC’s acclaimed Teen Titans followed in 2005. “It was a natural progression,” the artist says. “Drawing guys in capes was kind of new to me. There were so many growing pains. I remember my first day drawing several pages over and over again because I just didn’t like what was coming out.”

His polished Titans work led to his current Batman gig, one he has no intention of abandoning anytime soon. “I would love to be on it for four or five years. I lasted five years on The Tenth. We’ll see what happens.”

Penciling the book—Daniel aims for a page a day—is aided by the décor in his home studio. “Right above my drawing desk, I have two shelves filled with toys. I have a couple statues of Catwoman, Batgirl and the Paul Pope Batman. They help put Gotham City in my mind.”

When he’s not at the drafting table, Daniel is busy with a vocation he picked up during a self-imposed exile from comics a few years ago. “We had screenwriters coming on and basically messing up my [optioned] projects, so I figured I’d start screenwriting and mess it up on my own and get paid for it.” Daniel has recently hooked up with “The Cooler” producers Pierce-Williams to help get his “Hazard Pay” script to the screen. (“It’s about a con man who gets in over his head.”)

Daniel admits his writing résumé is yet to be as prolific as Tony Daniel, a sci-fi author who prompted the artist to add an “S” to his handle. “If people look for me on eBay, they get a whole bunch of Tony Daniel novels, including one called Warpath, which is one of the characters from [early Marvel assignment] X-Force. It’s easy for people to get confused.”

Including Daniel’s own wife. “When she first met me, she went and Googled my name and saw all these novels and thought it was me.

“And these are some weird novels.”

Upon hearing of their son’s plans to become an artist, Billy Tan’s parents had some extremely dubious career advice.

“You would never be able to survive as an artist,” Tan, now drawing Uncanny X-Men, recalls them scolding. “Only when you die, that’s when you make money.”

The teenage Tan, eager to be both successful and breathing, obeyed their wishes to depart Malaysia and attend business school at the University of Kentucky. But downtime was spent taking art classes and compiling a portfolio, which he sent off during one of Top Cow’s talent searches in 1994. “I sent in a sample and they give me some comments through letters,” Tan says. “They let me try out with trading cards. I sent that in and they liked it, so they flew me in to San Diego. They were cool enough to keep me.”

A die-hard fan of Image, Tan’s days were spent inking in the company of luminaries like J. Scott Campbell, Travis Charest and his idol Marc Silvestri. “When I first picked up [Silvestri’s] Cyberforce, I had no idea comics could have such an artistic factor. His stuff was mind-blowing to me.”

The Image gigs—Tomb Raider, Codename: Strykeforce—were in short supply; Tan once spent an entire year painting a Tomb Raider cover, which wasn’t doing his bank account any favors. A friend facilitated a Marvel meet in 2004, which resulted in work on X-23 and Marvel Knights Spider Man. In 2006, Tan was granted the Holy Grail of illustration: a job on Uncanny X-Men with legendary scribe Chris Claremont. When the publisher called with the offer, Claremont was silently listening on the line. “I was sweating,” Tan laughs. “I was going, ‘That was Claremont on the phone. I think.’”

Uncanny editor Nick Lowe plucked Tan from a stack of possible recruits. “He’s one of the few artists who really makes characters look cool,” Lowe raves. “His characters are badass, plain and simple. They look like they can, and will, kick your ass. Some of the pages he’s finished have literally made my socks fly off.”

Tan’s dynamic style shines in fight sequences. “I think that’s my influence from the Hong Kong comics,” he says of the knuckle-ups. “Hong Kong comic fight scenes, the choreography is amazing. Very dynamic and aggressive in how they do it. It’s in your face.”

The 37-year-old artist’s alchemy has had fans returning to the X-books in droves, a fact that gives him a case of the warm fuzzies. “It’s really an honor when fans come up and say, ‘You made me come back to the book.’ That’s amazing. I try my best.”

Compliment Ontario’s Dale Eaglesham on a job well done on DC’s Justice Society of America and you’re likely to be met with a furrowed brow and forlorn expression. He’s failed you.

“If a reader picks up a comic and says, ‘Wow, that was great art,’ then I didn’t do my job because I distracted them from the story,” Eaglesham says. “If someone picks up one of my comics and says, ‘Wow, what a great story,’ and they enjoyed it, to me, that’s success.”

After seeing a Swamp Thing comic when he was just 6 years old that “blew my mind,” Eaglesham experimented with finger paints before graduating to pencils. Attending college for commercial art, he was drawn to comics. “Up until that point, I hadn’t been doing a whole lot of superhero stuff. I think my art was more like Archie, Peanuts, things like that.”

A fervent Conan fan, Eaglesham was beside himself when a friend passed along his art to Marvel and the company gave him pinup assignments for their Savage Sword of Conan series in the mid-1980s. The 1990s saw the artist bounce from job to job with Acclaim (Eternal Warriors), Dark Horse (The Creep), and back to Marvel (Punisher). (For a visual progression of Eaglesham’s work through the years, flip on over to p. 66.)

It wasn’t until 2002, over a decade into his career, that Eaglesham got regular book assignments with Green Lantern and the late, lamented H-E-R-O. (“The pages always looked amazing and he was always on time,” comments H-E-R-O editor Peter Tomasi. “He took great pride in his work and was constantly pushing himself.”)

Now deep into a JSA run with writer Geoff Johns and character designer Alex Ross, the 45-year-old Eaglesham’s only complaint is trying to adapt Ross’ painted work for the pencil-and-ink panels. “Drawing the Kingdom Come Superman is a real challenge. You’ve pretty much seen him only in a painted medium. I’m trying to translate that into a graphic medium. It’s not always easy to make those facial features appear graphically, especially when they’ve been painted before. That’s tough.”

Tough, but successful. If one were to take any comic with an Alex Ross cover, the reader expectation assumes that the interior artist won’t have the same level of quality. Eaglesham’s art not only keeps up with Ross’ contributions, but also tells a tight story. Which, as we know, would please him to know it’s all worth the trouble.

“I’ve been getting the right projects,” he says. “I feel like I’m just starting as an artist.”

Entering a contest that doesn’t technically exist would seem to lower one’s chances of winning, but don’t tell that to Steve Epting.

A lifelong fan of sequential art, in the mid-’80s the then-20-something aspiring artist got wind of First Comics holding a contest to find new talent; the winner would get their work published. Epting compiled a six-page Jonas the Hammer story, a regular feature in its marquee Nexus title. When he showed up to the Atlanta Fantasy Fair with the work, no one at the First booth had clue one about it.

“They were nice enough to review all of the entries and declared me and another artist the ‘winners,’” Epting recalls. “We met with First’s art director and through him I ended up getting my first professional assignment.”

When First became cash-strapped, Epting began shopping his talents around at Marvel. Then-editor Howard Mackie liked what he saw, and charged Epting with a high-profile gig in Avengers. Though his art was commended, the narrative was deemed a low point in the team’s history.

“It didn’t help that it was saddled with the usual ’90s gimmicks such as beard stubble, leather jackets and metallic embossed covers,” Epting, 43, says now. “I found most people either loved it or hated it, but the ones who loved it are definitely out there.”

After a brief stint at DC, where both he and writer Dan Jurgens were unable to save Aquaman from his umpteenth cancellation, Epting volleyed back to Marvel and duties on Ed Brubaker’s Captain America from its new launch in 2004, just in time for the character’s recent execution. “Cap should be right up there with the most iconic superheroes in comics. I hope that after our run, he’ll still be getting the exposure and attention the character deserves.”

Not that he plans to leave Cap anytime soon. When asked what his future holds, he wryly replies, “Cap, Cap and more Cap.”

A typical workday in Epting’s South Carolina studio includes “lots of caffeine” and admiring a replica Cap shield in his studio. Asked what he might be doing if not for comics, Epting replies, “If I didn’t make it as an artist, I probably would have gone into the family business—distributing heating and air conditioning equipment.”

That doesn’t look to be a possibility anytime soon. “Steve cares about the work he does to an extraordinary degree,” says Cap editor Tom Brevoort. “It’s not uncommon for him to finish, say, a cover image, decide that it’s not good enough, not what he wanted, and then for him to redo it completely from scratch. He’s deeply committed to the quality of his work.”

Crowd scenes? Pfft. Titanic battles with muscular he-men tossing buses and dodging falling stars? Done before lunch. But dogs?

Dogs could be a problem.

“Dogs’ back legs are a pain to draw,” sighs Mike Perkins, one of the pencilers currently in rotation on Captain America. “The front legs are fine, because they just go up and down. But the back leg is kind of bent all over the place. Especially when they kneel down—you don’t know which way they’re going.”

Canine anatomy issues aside, Perkins’ skill has netted him applause in industry circles as the Brit who has embraced the jingoistic Cap without a moment’s hesitation. That’s because the 37-year-old Tampa, Fla., resident grew up in the U.K. on a steady visual diet of Marvel reprints. “[Captain America] is in your consciousness anyway. It really doesn’t come into consideration that he’s such an American presence. I’ve grown up on those characters.”

“Mike is able to make an icon seem human without losing his iconic status,” says Perkins’ Union Jack writer Christos N. Gage. “You can relate to his Cap as a man without his role as the ‘Sentinel of Liberty’ being diminished in the least.”

As a teen, Perkins would illustrate his own riffs on characters like Judge Dredd and then sell them at lunchtime to schoolmates, baiting them with treats. (“I would put a fun-size Snickers or Mars Bar on the front of the cover, so people would pick them up when they were hungry.”) After a brief foundation course in art college, an agent netted him regular work for the popular U.K. anthology series 2000 A.D. in 1993; work in the U.S. for Caliber and CrossGen followed, including his well-received homage to James Bond, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

“It was how Bond would’ve been when he doesn’t take other people into consideration whatsoever,” laughs Perkins of his 2004 CrossGen hit.

When CrossGen closed shop, Perkins’ work visa was about to expire; Marvel stepped in with offers, which eventually led to his current Cap stint. He’s also ink-deep in the newly launched miniseries House of M: Avengers, a new book Perkins describes as something “for anyone who loves that comic. It’s a story where [writer] Christos Gage gets to work on all of the characters he loved when he was a kid. You’ve got Luke Cage in his yellow shirt and silver tiara, walking around 1970s New York.”

While his tenure on Cap has no immediate finish line, Perkins isn’t the restless type. “I’d like to do a really long run, like a 50-issue run on Wolverine. I think that would be incredibly fun to do. And the perfect collaborator for that would be [Cap writer] Ed Brubaker.”

That kind of enthusiasm for the medium is no surprise to Gage, who sees Perkins as a genuine fan of the industry. “I remember Mike telling me once he doesn’t understand comics professionals who complain about the business, because he feels so lucky to work in a field that’s so much fun.

“The sky’s the limit for Mike.”

Shane Davis completists take note: The artist isn’t exactly eager to help you round out your collection.

“I don’t really want to talk about my debut,” Davis says of his fill-in work on Robin #110. “It was really bad. The inker that took the job flaked. He never inked anything after that for years. It barely made it to the printer. There was no time to color it. Atrocious.”

These days, Davis’ work—found on DC’s Superman/Batman—is all anyone can talk about, and “atrocious” is the last adjective tossed around. After an eye-opening stint on DC’s Mystery in Space from 2006-07, the 28-year-old New Jersey resident is a few issues deep into a Batman/Superman run with “Heroes” TV writer Michael Green and enjoying the kind of accolades normally reserved for veterans.

“I was blown away,” says Space writer Jim Starlin of glimpsing his early pages. “He’s got a great sense of design, the lighting he utilizes.”

Davis honed those techniques at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art; after a brief stint checking DVDs for scratches at a Blockbuster Video, his circulating portfolio nabbed him work that went from a trickle to a full-blown career. “Before I knew it, there was one point where I did a job for Marvel, DC licensing and Upper Deck, all in one week.”

Davis’ work for character T-shirts and assorted props—he designed the handle to the Batman knife recently advertised in these pages—landed him an exclusive contract with DC and a regular gig on Batman/Superman, one he perpetuates with 12-hour workdays and influences ranging from Japanese anime to sculptor Randy Bowen.

“The Superman in [recent fill-in gig] JLA isn’t going to be the Superman I draw in Superman/Batman,” Davis says of putting his own stamp on the dual icons. “And when Batman’s cape is down, it has more of a batwing texture to it, veiny. Superman is more about little things, like his hair. I want less of the matted-down look.

“But,” he promises, “no mullet.”

I've always been a fan of Tony Daniel, Billy Tan and Steve Epting, ever since I saw their work. Tony Daniel did some fantastic stuff on one of the Marvel X-titles...can't remember which, but it might have been either X-Force or Excalibur, then he translated that fantastic artwork to the newly-named titles when they entered the Age of Apocalypse storyarc. His work on creator-owned Silke and F5 was just brilliant as well. And now he draws Batman, which I don't collect. How I'm missing out on his brilliant work.

I think the first issue of Billy Tan's work that I own is one of those Cyberforce spin-off one-shots. His work was very stylised, like a combination of Mark Silvestri and Jim Lee's pencils. But it was brilliant, and I think he moved on to Spirit of the Tao of which I THINK I have the first issue. He sort of followed the same path that David Finch did, starting off at Top Cow Productions under Mark Silvestri, getting his own title to illustrate, then moving onto Marvel Comics. David Finch is the bigger star with the higher profile, but I'm sure with Billy Tan's stint on Uncanny X-Men, he'll soon be up there too.

And I've ALWAYS been a fan of Steve Epting's work, ever since I saw his pencils on Avengers in the early to mid 90s. I always thought Epting wasn't given his due and it WAS one of the WORST times in Avengers history, with poorly written stories, bad characterisation and whatnot. But he had a very gritty style that I enjoyed looking at...fantastic that he's been given a high profile gig now on Captain America.

Dale Eaglesham has great talent as well. His Villains United series was illustrated so beautifully, and I was wondering why DC hadn't elevated him to a bigger gig or title! Justice Society of America isn't QUITE a big gig...he really needs to get onto a Superman, Batman or Justice League title...or even one of the massive DC crossovers like Countdown or 52 to further elevate his profile. Or hopefully Marvel Comics can just lure him over to illustrate some title! :p

Geeks bearing gifts: buyer's guide

Hey hey! Christmas is around the corner and, as per tradition, Toyfare releases its list of suggested gifts for the movie buffs and comic book geeks out there.

Beware of any advice on what to get someone for the holidays—unless it’s from the ToyFare annual gift guide!

By Rob Bricken

Posted November 28, 2007 9:00 AM

Let’s face it, Christmas has gotten a little too commercial. But is that really such a bad thing? After all, this is the time for showing people how much you care. And while we can all easily give each other a hug, how nice is it to give (or receive) a really awesome toy? Or a statue, DVD set, high-end collectible, or even a small, Rocky-themed keychain? It’s still meaningful, and it still shows people you care enough to give them a nice commercial product. With this in mind, ToyFare would like to give you a few ideas via our annual gift guide. Happy holidays!

Know any movie lovers? Of course you do. Forget the Best Buy gift certificate you’ve been handing them for years and try one of these movie-riffic toys, collectibles and DVDs instead.

1. Star Wars R2-D2 Flip-Top Trash Can

(Gentle Giant, $125)
R2-D2 has had a lot of stuff inside him (lightsabers, holograms, Kenny Baker), but now you can fill him with trash! This 23-inch wastebasket can hold your used “Darth Vader death scene” tissues…or a six-pack with ice!

2. The Goonies Copper Bones Movie Prop Replica

(Mezco, $20)
Give the gift of One-Eyed Willy this holiday season….Okay, we should probably clarify that. Give this perfect replica of Willy’s skull key; you know, the one that led to the treasure in “The Goonies.” Not your johnson.

3. Lego Ultimate Collector’s Millennium Falcon

(Lego, $500)
You might have built Lego Millennium Falcons before, but you’ve never built this monster. It’s over 3 feet long and made from over 5,000 pieces—making it the biggest Lego set ever made!

4. Blade Runner Ultimate Collector’s Edition 5-Disc DVD
(Warner Bros., $55)
“Blade Runner” finally gets the DVD release it deserves, with four versions of the film (including an all-new Director’s Cut!), a disc of extras and a package shaped like Deckard’s briefcase.

5. The Big Lebowski Urban Achiever the Dude Action Figure
(Bif Bang Pow!, $16.99)
The Dude’s barely urban and even less an achiever. Even so, this awesome vinyl toy of Jeff Bridges comes with his bowling bag and ever-present White Russian.

6. 300 King Leonidas 12-Inch Action Figure with Sound
(NECA, $32.50)
Ancient “300” badass Leonidas rules with this 12-inch figure that speaks four lines from the movie and has an alternate head. Give the gift of 12 inches of pure man! (Again, not your johnson.)

7. Transformers 2-Disc Special Edition HD-DVD
(DreamWorks, $30)
Sorry, Blu-ray fans—the summer’s hottest movie is available on HD-DVD only. Watch the Michael Bay-retooled Autobots and Deceptions beat the crap out of each other in glorious hi-def, plus tons of special features!

8. Back to the Future Mini-Mates Series 1 Box Set

(Diamond Select, $16)
There might be something horribly wrong with your kids in the future, but there’s nothing wrong with these MiniMates in the present.

9. Star Wars and Spider-Man 3 Fatheads
(Fathead, $75-$99)
Got a pal with a blank wall? Not anymore, you don’t. These huge, highly detailed decals show their love of Star Wars or Spider-Man 3 characters in a way that is both classy and incredibly audacious.

10. 300 Spartan Shield
(Windlass Studios, $395)
Whether you really like “300” or need to protect your mostly naked body from Persians, this Spartan shield replica is for you. It’s made of steel, leather and brass. Heck, buy one for all 299 of your friends.

As a nerd, you likely have many equally nerdy friends. Sure, they have boxes of comics and a tattered Punisher T-shirt, but they surely can’t have all of these great gift ideas.

1. The Invincible Iron Man Statue
(Hard Hero, $200)
Iron Man’s been a raging alcoholic, a government lackey and now—possibly—a Skrull. But he’s still reasonably invincible, and he looks awesome in this 15-inch-tall statue, sculpted by Seth Vandable.

2. The DC Comics Action Figure Archive Book
Chronicle Books, $40)
Former ToyFare editor Scott Beatty has used his nerd-powers in a scholarly pursuit—he’s written this coffee-table book, archiving toys of over 1,400 DC characters and all their info, variants and more.

3. Marvel Zombies Action Figures
(Diamond Select Toys, $16 ea.)
Superheroes and hunger for living flesh—two great tastes that go great together, thanks to this trio of figures from the best-selling Marvel Zombies.

4. Batgirl 13-Inch Deluxe Collector Figure
(DC Direct, $83)
Remember the happier, less computer-savvy days of Barbara Gordon with this fine 1:6 scale figure of the original Batgirl. She’s got a real cloth costume, but be on the lookout for the special black-outfit variant.

5. Stephen King’s Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born
(Marvel, $25)
Before Roland was the star of Stephen King’s Dark Tower books, he was having plenty of adventures—all chronicled by Peter David and illustrator Jae Lee. It’s literary-tastic!

6. Mjolnir: Ultimate Thor Hammer
(Windlass Studios, $495)
You’d have to be crazy not to want this 42-inch replica of Thor’s badass hammer from The Ultimates. Or perhaps your brother Loki has just set an elaborate ruse to make you doubt your own sanity. Either way, get the hammer.

7. Twisted ToyFare Theatre 10th Anniversary Collection
(Wizard, $30)
Give your pals the gift of puerile humor! This deluxe book collects the top 25 “TTTs” as chosen by us, the writers, who are utterly unbiased. Yes, we’re plugging our own crap.

8. Legendary Comic Book Heroes Series 2
(Marvel Toys, $75)
It doesn’t have to be all Marvel or DC under the tree. The hit toy line’s second wave includes the Darkness, Cyberforce’s Striker, a build-a-figure of Monkeyman from Monkeyman and O’Brien and more!

9. The Complete Invincible Library Vol. 1
(Image, $125)
The teenaged Mark has superpowers and a lot of hard decisions to make in Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. One of the decade’s best comics gets the book it deserves, with nearly 800 pages and tons of extras.

10. Walking Dead Statue
(C.S. Moore Studio, $99)
Sure, it might be weird to give someone a gift representing a zombie attack, but this statue is a gift that keeps on giving—future Walking Dead statues will attach to it, creating a zombie horde. Isn’t that what Christmas is all about?

Dark Tower and The Complete Invincible Library are looking so hot right now. On my pull list!